Monthly Archives: January 2013

Another Egyptian crisis

http://news.sky.com/story/1043203/many-dead-after-football-fans-sentenced It’s not a coincidence that judgment is passed a day after the mark of two years since the revolution begun in Egypt. Morsi wants to reinforce his power and the islamic brotherhoods hegemony over the nation state. His punishment and influence over the courts is demonstrated by this harsh handed sentence. Another revolution is coming to Egypt, the first one still isn’t over!

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On Racism…

The online dictionary site dictionary.com defines racism as being:

rac·ism

noun
1: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races  determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race  is superior and has the right to rule others. 
 
2: a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3: hatred or intolerance of another race  or other races.
 
I am more concerned with the definitions of racism which fall within the definitions 1 and 2.  Recently I stumbled across a bloggers page called Creeping Sharia.  I noticed that this writer has been blogging about Middle Eastern issues and thought it would be interesting to follow their posts.  From a position of curiosity and wishing to gain an alternative perspective I followed various blogs that this author had written.  At first I found some of the articles were interesting, however, as I read more and more I found them to be disturbing.  
 
It is true that the Middle East has been presented in a terrible way within mainstream media across the western world.  It is also true that there have been some very real, traumatic and disturbing terrorist attacks against the Western World by Al Qaeda (inspired) terrorists who have come from the Middle East – Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia etc.  It is true that there is a rise in fundamentalism with respect to Islam within the Middle East.  However, what astonished me about the articles that I have read was the racism that fuels these discussions and articles. There was not a reasonable point to be made; the main point was that Muslims are terrorists.  The main point was that Islam is something to be feared, rejected and destroyed, yes destroyed!  I made a few comments on the posts and suggested that there were many forms of Islam and many ways of practicing Islam and that these discussions should be contextualized.  I was told that I was a British Liberal, that I was insane and pointed to look at various Youtube video’s about Londonstan! I was accused of being mental and ignorant.  The discussions that my comments created left me feeling gobsmacked, astonished and sad and pity towards those people.  Pity because these people are not people who have informed positions on the Middle East or on Islam.  Sad because their posts were often substantiated by media material and reading it made me cringe.  It occurred to me that the Middle East is facing turmoil in more ways than one.  Currently there are wars and conflicts in the region, there are new governments with new policies which to an extent are on the radical side.  However, sad that the millions of Muslims who do not ascribe to the radical/fundamental aspect of Islam are not getting their messages across and are silenced.  
 
However, these writers who do portray Islam in a negative light they are dangerous in my opinion. I left the discussions with them noting that their attitudes could to an extent be described as the sort of attitudes found in parts of Europe during WWII.  That this rise in fascism was unacceptable.  Of course I knew that these people would want the last word, I just did not give them the satisfaction of reading or commenting further. 
 
I am not a Muslim but I do not accept racism, I do not accept intolerance and I reject violence and aggression.  
 
When we are striped down to naked flesh we are all the same, we share similar biology and chemistry.
 
I suggested that my American friends (those who were blogging) concern themselves with the real issues that exist in their society; gun control, domestic violence, the economy etc etc and make some positive changes for their lives and those who follow.  Yet their reply to me was the there was no fear in America apart from the rise in Islam and terrorism.  Perhaps it’s true and perhaps I am naive, I just don’t know.   What I do know though is that racism in any form is unacceptable. 

Mocking the Weak – the question of Islam in Egyptian Popular Culture.

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https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/a_one-woman_opposition_show

Sama Al-Masri a name that many probably have never heard before.  She’s an Egyptian dancer and singer, well known across the Middle East.  She has been creating a stir across Egypt by offending both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.  Her lyrics and her dances are regarded by these two groups as being “un-Islamic”  The issue here is not whether or not Al-Masri’s views are Islamic, criticism or otherwise.  The issue here is the developing civil society under the Brotherhood leadership and post-revolution.  The issues it seems are the rights of women, the rights of free thinking and criticism, the freedom to have thought and articulate that through music or any other art forms and not fear death threats, imprisonment or anything else.  What is at stake is the shift in Egyptian politics that has occurred post-Mubarak that has reinforced and highlighed Mubarak’s  position and thoughts on groups such as the Brotherhood which he repressed under his rule.  Mubarak’s politics couldn’t last forever, eventually he would have died, however, the brotherhood are in for now and they won’t last forever either. What Egypt needs are more Al-Masri’s to pave the way for criticism, discussion and civil rights. 

 

Endgame: Syria

Endgame: Syria

reading this article about the new game on the Syrian civil war left me feeling somewhat astonished.  A game about civil war and the creator of the game claims that it can inform those who do not want to watch the news what is going on.  I have a big problem with that statement!  My problem with the statement is that who actually knows what is going on in Syria?  When the demonstrations started in 15 March 2011 the world watched the news thinking another regime in the Middle East was about to be toppled.  Tunisia, Egypt and Libya had just been through uprisings/revolutions and leaders/governments were toppled.  However, the Syrian conflict will be a long winded bloody one.  My point is that as the world was watching the news commentators where speculating how much time Assad had remaining.  Apparently a transitional government was meant to be forming in order to replace the Assad regime once Assad and his Baath party were toppled.  World powers remained somewhat silent and few world leaders/foreign secretaries made any sort of comments as they had done previously with regards to Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.  Almost two years later there seems to be no end to the conflict in Syria and we are no closer to knowing the truth!  First of all, the opposition (we were lead to believe) were peaceful demonstrators.  Secondly, a group of  oppositional figures were uniting to create a transitional government to replace Assad.  Thirdly, Syria is suddenly reported to be in a civil war with rebel fighters..  The once free Syrian army (FSA) suddenly appears to have terrorists fighting within.  Next, we learn that international governments are arming the FSA in order to topple Assad, we also learn that international intelligence agencies are providing intelligence to the FSA.  Terrorists are arrested in Heathrow airport accused of helping the Syrian terrorist opposition groups of Jihad.  Assad is a brutal criminal, this is without a doubt, he has not done anything to provide security and stability in Syria, he has not listened to public opinion to stop the massacres and bloodshed.  Arab press takes sides, there are groups for Assad and groups against Assad and these are media organisations so news will always be bias.  Not that news in the rest of the world remains free of bias.  My point is that no one really knows what is going on in Syria.  Yet, someone had a bright idea to create a game about a bloody conflict.  Rather than to suggest that this game offers an insight into the state of affairs in Syria just admit you want to cash in on a bloody conflict.  It is not as though you will be appealing to a group of players what want to know what is going on in the Middle East, or even a group of players who care what is going on or even knows where Syria is.  So, rather than attempt to market a game with the aim of providing insight, why not just cash in on a bloody conflict?!

The Coffee Pot…For Coffee lovers…

The Coffee Pot...For Coffee lovers...

If you, like me, have Middle Eastern, Greek or Turkish influence you will be familiar with the coffee pot. This pot of coffee is like no other pot in the world. It offers strong, dark, freshly brewed to your liking a coffee like no other. This coffee has many stories of its own and a long history. Within it can be brewed endless amounts of coffee to suit the tastes of any coffee lover. You can have it black, strong, without sugar or spice, known as bitter. You can have it medium with medium sugar known as medium or, you can have it strong and sweet – which metaphorically is like me! You can have it with cardamon if you like spice, you can have it with cinnamon and you can even add hot milk to it to remove that bitterness. The choice is yours.

Some like dark roasted coffee, others lightly roasted, but almost always freshly ground. This particular coffee pot has many stories to suit many social occasions.

This pot is not on here for no purpose. Traditionally in the Middle East strong bitter coffee is offered to guests coming to pay their condolences for loved ones lost – bitterness representing the bitter death.

For me it represents the social connotations which are triggered every time I see the pot. Every day across the Middle East men and women have prepared in a pot similar to this one a coffee.

Women usually have morning coffee’s with their families and again after their husbands leave to work with their friends. It acts as a coffee break and a social gathering of housewives who want to break their daily chores – often the coffee mornings can become a chore. Usually a pleasure.

Men can be seen sitting in coffee shops sipping from traditional coffee cups whilst playing cards or backgammon and some smoking a water pipe.

There is mystery for the coffee can bare all. Some pay to have their coffee cup read to them in a similar way that tea leaves are read. Secrets can be seen, promises can be made, tears can be shed, marriages can be foreseen.

The coffee pot brings people together in happiness and sadness. It can unite people in love and sorrow.

This coffee pot is like no other pot I have seen.

The Two State Solution…

The Two State Solution…

Tomorrow will see the Israeli’s going to the polls!  The election results are predictable for those familiar with Israeli politics and the emerging Middle East.  I say emerging Middle East because this is the first Israeli election to take place post and during the Arab Spring/Revolution.  What Israel has seen during the last two years is a rise in support through out the Middle East for the Palestinian cause.  It has also seen a substantial rise in support from the world; Palestinians were granted Soverign State at the UN on the 29th November 2012 by 138 out of 193 UN Member States.  This was a blow to Israel who up until then had almost unanimous support from UN Member States.  The world it seems have been both frustrated and tired by the ongoing issue of Palestine and Israel.  For the Palestinians this was a turning point in history.  On the same day 29th November in 1947 the UN voted on the recognition of the State of Israel within the Palestinian State. So, for the Palestinians to be granted Statehood recognition by the UN 65 years later was a big blow to Israel.  With the emerging Middle East and already Israel noticing a shift in diplomacy notably by Egypt; who under Mubarak had a partner in the region to ensure peace and stability across it’s borders no longer has this benefit under the recently elected Muslim Brotherhood leader, Morsi.  Whereby Morsi must play into the hands of the Western Superpowers and had to ensure that the peace treaty with Israel (1979) would be honored by his government although public opinion in Egypt would like to see the treaty dismantled. There have been several demonstrations in Egypt during the revolution against the Israel Embassy in Cairo calling for the Israeli envoy to leave Egypt and the treaty to be abolished.  Under Mubarak the Israeli embassy was always protected and there would be a severe consequences in place should anyone attempt to target the embassy. However, the United States has ensured and secured Morsi as a player in the region for peace.  The IMF offered Morsi a $4.8billion loan.  This does not come to Egypt without some assurances – speculators have suggested that this is to keep Morsi and the treaty alive.  Plus, to ensure that American interests are preserved regionally. 

Another issue for Israel is the rise in Islamism across the region, this is not just something that Israel fears it is something that fears both the EU and America.  I do not know whether the Superpowers were naive in their approach on the revolution or whether they were aware that Islamist governments would be elected in favour of the autocratic regimes that had previously been in power.  However, for Israel and the region an Islamist government is a potential disaster.  For a moment let us ignore Israel and focus on what Islamist governments mean for the region.  Firstly, minority religions/sects/ethnics will not be represented within a governmental landscape.  Secondly, rights issues of these groups will not necessarily be preserved.  Possibly Shariah law could be fully implemented meaning those who do not observe Islam would be trialed under Islamic Law, or, even worse, will not be represented equally within society.  Muslims who do not observe the conservative elements of Islam would be amoungst the first groups of people to suffer.   Secondly, on a regional level Israel would bear the brunt – it would be further ostracized by regional players.  

Egypt borders Israel as do Syria and Lebanon.  Jordan is suffering from demonstrations and is the only other country regionally which has a peace treaty with Israel.  However, Jordan has done all it can to secure the border and to work actively in serving the treaty.  A rise in Islamisim in Jordan threatens further insecurity both domestically and regionally.  So far King Adbullah has done all he can to secure his country.  

Syria, however, presents a different situation all together.  For decades Assad has secured its border with Israel and although Syria doesn’t have a peace accord with Israel it has maintained a peaceful border for the most part.  During this bloody crisis which has rocked Syria its border with Israel has been violated.  This has certainly created a stir within Israeli politics.  Its disputed Golan Heights border with Syria had been relatively quiet under Assad now it seems that Islamism is on the rise and there is no guarantee that a new government will honour this unspoken agreement.  

Hezbollah won 53% of votes in the last Lebanese elections presenting Israel with a further dilemma   Two of its four borders have fallen to the hands of Islamists (enemies), Syria is yet to emerge from its crisis, however, this presents Israel with a third unsecured border and Jordan may or may not remain secular and secure.  Under these terms and landscapes Israel has great reason to feel insecure.  

So far two major events have occurred that has reinforced insecurity  for Israel; the revolution and the outcome of the UN Statehood bid for Palestine.  it will be of no surprise tomorrow if the right wing alliance government made up of Netenyahu’s Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance between his Likud party and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party is tipped to win.

This particular alliance reinforces the need for Israel to create a nationalistic party that serves the interests of Israel alone.  Of course, Israeli’s at this time will be feeling rather insecure with what has happened both regionally and internationally, however, if Israel were to consider the outcomes of electing such a right-winged alliance then perhaps Israeli’s will reconsider their voting strategy.  Rather than seeking a party that wants to benefit from regional stability and work closely with the emerging governments Israel may find itself being  ignored by regional players and isolated further.  It’s views on Palestinian rights cannot last forever and the world demonstrated on 29th November, 2012 that Palestinians are slowly being recognized within the international community.  That in turn highlighted Israeli policy towards both the peace process and its policy towards the international community.  There was only so long that the world could watch the suffering in South Africa under apartheid and there is only so long that the international community can watch the injustices being committed upon the Palestinians.  Sooner or later Israel will have to consider peace for Israel’s sake.

 

The Emerging Middle East simplified!

The Emerging Middle East simplified!

I have often wondered about the consequences of the revolutions across the Middle East.  Many believe that these were inevitable and eventually there would be an outcry for autocratic regimes to be toppled and replaced by a democratic election process.  In fact, when the Arab spring started the common themes uniting Tunisia, Libya and Egypt were in fact high unemployment, poverty and an increase in food and energy prices.  What has resulted has been astonishing.  On one level three major regimes were toppled the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libya.  Over night the major world powers went from supporting regimes to calling for each leader to step down, WHY?

I want to focus on both Egypt and Syria.  Morsi has been elected in Egypt and represents the Muslim Brotherhood.  In Syria a battle is still raging between Assad and the “rebels”.  Who are the rebels?  

What has Morsi achieved since gaining powers?  He has allowed for Egypt to suffer and the Egyptians to suffer.  Those who had taken to the streets calling for freedom, human rights and equality have been cheated.  The youth movement in Egypt who could have encouraged a real democracy to emerge have found themselves worse off under Morsi than they were under Mubarak.  Morsi has given himself the title of The New Pharaoh, he assumed overall powers and re-drafted a constitution for his own interests.  This is the democracy in Egypt.  Of course demonstrators took to the streets and his re-draft of the constitution was yet again re-drafted and elections took place.  Egypt will have another revolution  the people were smart to rally against Mubarak they will not be daft to keep Morsi and Morsi knows that he too will be toppled.  The revolution has not finished. 

Syria, Assad, what the hell are you doing?  As a leader he has during his time before the revolution protected sectarian divisions and maintained a balance and within Syria.  Small factions want to cause trouble and they grouped together inspired by events in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt thinking that they too could toppled Assad.  How wrong were they?  What makes Syria unique is that Assad has to a large extent pleased everyone.  Assad has to a large extent maintained an iron fist over society and not allowed other groups to form and to establish themselves as a major opposition.  In fact, if Assad were toppled who would replace him?  What would happen?  Assad should have been smarter from the beginning, he should have listened to the people and allowed for an election to occur.  No one was ready to oppose him because to an extent he had a majority of  supporters and would definitely won a greater percentage in votes.  He should have listened to the demands of the people and removed changed parts of the constitution.  Assad did not play his cards right; In fear of his position and keeping an eye on the emerging political landscape Assad appeared to have lost confidence.  However, what he has achieved now for Syria appears to be a civil war based along both ethnic and sectarian divides.  Syria could well find itself in a situation not dissimilar to the Lebanese Civil War and that lasted for fifteen years.  

Regardless of what happens in Syria the shift that has created the biggest fear within the region is the rise in radical Islam.  This rise in radical Islam can not lead to anything positive for the region and for the worlds major powers.  Firstly, minority religions and ethnic groups will suffer and that is a certainty.  Secondly, ties with Israel and the Western world will suffer.  It is not in the interest of the major powers in the long term to continue to support the opposition groups within the MENA region unless they are supporting truly secular and democratic opposition groups.